Monday, November 20, 2017
  • Wednesday, May. 24, 2017
Kidz Bop
Earwitness
What’s In Your Kid’s Ear?

I was flailing a bit, trying to figure out what the next column might be about when my partner Brian suggested, “How about Kidz Bop?”  To which I replied, “What the hell is Kidz Bop?”  “Look it up,” he deadpanned.  Brian has two beautiful little girls, ages 5 and 9.

So, turns out that Kidz Bop is the self-proclaimed “#1 music brand for kids.”  Started by independent label Razor & Tie in 2000, Kidz Bop has churned out 34 albums with total sales of over 16 million units, all consisting of kids (mostly pre-teen) singing “cleaned up” versions of Top 10 songs.  Hey, go to their website here and meet Freddy! National auditions are held to recruit Kidz singers (for obvious reasons, turnover is fairly frequent in the KB world).  The Kidz Bop “Best Time Ever” tour is just getting under way now.  And check this out: Legoland is installing a Kidz Bop theater and a Kidz Bop clothing line is in the works from Crazy 8!  That’s so crazy!!

For years, Kidz Bop albums have held top positions on the Billboard Kid Albums charts, with three currently in the top 20, right there with the Moana, Trolls and Beauty and the Beast soundtracks. From a branding perspective it’s a pretty brilliant strategy—I mean, as long as there are hits on the radio, there’s music for Kidz Bop to appropriate and repackage for the youngest market.  From Bruno Mars and Katy Perry to Billy Joel and The Beatles, there’s almost nothing the Kidz Bop kids won’t cover.  (Okay, probably not Public Enemy’s catalog.)  Here’s their take on DNCE’s “Cake By The Ocean”.  So fun!  
 

And their cover of Elle King’s “Ex’s & Oh’s” prompted this comment below the YouTube posting: “Great to see kids singing a song about ex lovers and orgasms.”  Oh well.

Experts in child development and learning seem to agree that music is an important part of cognitive growth, even in utero.  Which particularly resonates in light of the discovery by two researchers in cognitive neuroscience at MIT who discovered neural pathways that are activated by music alone, independent of all other sounds.  Wild.  So parents are encouraged to sing to their infants, and later, to sing with them, and have music exposure in the home, as refected here

In 1995 the National Association for Music Education (NAfME) created a list of songs “every American should be able to sing.”  Hmm.  I glanced at the list and of course found a few “hits” from my wonder years:  “Do-Re-Mi,” “Oh, Susannah,” “Puff the Magic Dragon,” “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star,” “Mary Had A Little Lamb”… 

Still, I’m pretty sure the musical influences of a lifetime are formed in the post-toddler years, when we begin making “choices.”  I asked Bang’s EP Brad Stratton what his 10 year-old son Zach was listening to.  “He really likes ‘Pump It Up’ by Elvis Costello.”  Hey, great beat, tons of energy, sticky hook…perfect!

“He also loves Muddy Waters…’Manish Boy’ is his favorite.”  What the??  How would Zachary know Muddy Waters?  “He found him on YouTube, that’s all I know.”  Well all right, then.  Good choice, Zach! 

Jack White, born John Anthony Gillis in Detroit, began listening to the Doors and Led Zeppelin in grade school before discovering some of the earliest blues artists who would influence his music to this day.  He’s stated that Son House’s “Grinnin’ In Your Face” is his favorite song of all time.  Seems like a stretch, but when you hear what he and Meg are doing with the song in this White Stripes performance (get to the 5:41 mark to claim your prize), no further questions—they kill it.

Britney Spears has cited Madonna, Janet Jackson and Whitney Houston as her “three favorite artists she would sing along to as a child.  According to Wikipedia, Madonna’s “influences” include Nancy Sinatra’s “These Boots Are Made For Walkin’,” Karen Carpenter, The, Supremes and Led Zeppelin.  Okay.

Adele has named the Spice Girls as a major influence on her love for music, stating that "they made me what I am today.”  Uh, Hello, I think you can give yourself more credit than that, Adele!  (She was 8 when “Wannabe” topped the charts worldwide in 1996!)

Billy Joel swears that after seeing The Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show, "That one performance changed my life,” and decided “This is what I'm going to do—play in a rock band.”  Which worked out pretty well.

I’d intended wrapping up this column with Sir Paul’s childhood influences (Little Richard), Katy Perry’s (Freddy Mercury)

and Kendrick Lamar’s (Tupac, Biggie…) when news broke of the suicide bombing outside the Manchester Arena following Ariana Grande’s concert, killing 22, 
including children and parents.  Grande tweeted “broken…i don’t have words.”  Neither do I.  Kids are supposed to be able to grow up, finding the music they love, challenging the music their parents “taught them.”  In the aftermath of this tragedy, she cancelled her tour.

Ms. Grande has said, “I love Mariah Carey…as far as vocal influences go, Whitney and Mariah pretty much cover it.”  So I thought maybe it would be okay to close this with Carey’s “Hero,” from 1993—the year Ariana Grande was born. 

About the author

Lyle Greenfield is the founder of BANG Music and past president of the Association of Music Producers (AMP).  Greenfield has been a driving force behind the AMP Awards for Music and Sound, which debuted in New York City in 2013.

Contact Lyle via email